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Posted at 5:32 PM ET, 01/19/2011

Alex Ovechkin: 'You have to go there and fight for that puck'

By Katie Carrera

On Monday, it was Mike Knuble who said that it will be the goals acquired from crashing the net that help the Washington Capitals' offense get back on track. In the past 24 hours, the player sounding the alert to go to the front of the net has been Alex Ovechkin, even though the Capitals' star left wing doesn't always have the fundamental instinct to score in that manner.

"Sometimes you just think maybe there's going to be a rebound, and I'm going to stay outside of the net because I don't want to go there, be in that position where I'm going to have hit in the neck or elbow in the face," Ovechkin said after practice today at Wells Fargo Center. "You think the puck is going to bounce right to your stick. It happens sometimes, but most of the time you have to go there and fight for that puck."

The Capitals aren't running away with anything, whether the division, conference, point accumulation or goal scoring races like they did last year, but if the offense were to get back on track to go along with what's been strong overall defensive play, Washington remains in a good position to move up in the conference standings.

There has been much said about what the Capitals must do to jumpstart their offense and eliminate the starts that have spotted opponents a goal or two in the first period, but they must find a way to have all the talk manifest itself in on-ice results.

"I think in locker room or in practice you think, 'OK, we're going to do it,' then right away in the game something happens," Ovechkin said. "For us right now, most important thing, we talk, we have to do this, crash the net, right away. The first couple minutes of the game we have to go over there, find rebound and even if we don't score we just have to go there."

--Ted Leonsis attended the game in Philadelphia on Tuesday night, braving the stands at Wells Fargo Center to watch the contest. There wasn't too much trash talk from the Flyers fans, though, according to his account of the night on Ted's Take.

By Katie Carrera  | January 19, 2011; 5:32 PM ET
Categories:  Alex Ovechkin  
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Comments

its pretty obvious to me how you get this team to start the game strong.

You upgrade your personnel on the bottom 2 lines and you use those lines to start every game, every period. Not one or two guys on each line who commit 100% to creating energy and crashing the net. But every guy on that line needs to be of one mind.

The skill guys will follow suit. Once you establish a RHTHYM like that, then you can tweak your starting lineups. And if you falter , then go back to the role players.

But teams really do get into a good or a bad rhythm and that's how you correct it.

One of the things Hanlon actually did right was he started the Brads-Suts-Clymer line at the beginning of games and the 2nd and 3rd pd. HE did it because that was his hardest working energy line that was defensively responsible. They got a forecheck going, created energy, and the rest of the team followed suit in that manner. They didn't win many games because they lacked talent. But their work ethic for quite a while was 2nd to none.

Posted by: cstanton1 | January 19, 2011 6:00 PM | Report abuse

Fight for the puck? The organization needs to show that it'll FIGHT FOR THE FANS!! This can be done twofold. First, fire BB and hire John Stevens. That'd be the best jumpstart possible for this stagnating team. Second, incorporate the personnel so eloquently identified by cstanton.

If BB is gonna be around for the foreseeable future, he could earn a little respect by playing DJK against the Isles. Someone posted a few threads back how "BB shows he really cares for the players," (if not verbatim then something close.) I won't get started on how the complete opposite is true, but let's see what happens on the Island.

Posted by: vermontcaps | January 19, 2011 6:16 PM | Report abuse

There are certain coaches who recognize how tough it is to play the type of role DJ is asked to play. And they do reward them whenever possible. Be it at the end of a game on a PP (if they're comfortably ahead). Or playing them in more games once they prove they're willing to play that role.

One thing about DJ, he IS willing. And maybe with a little more confidence from his coach, he becomes better on the ice.

Posted by: cstanton1 | January 19, 2011 6:23 PM | Report abuse

I haven't been posting much lately but I have been skimming on occasion. Man, do any of you work? Some of you have post after post all day and into the night. I thought I was obsessed with the Capitals.

I was at Wells Fargo Center for the game yesterday and I have to give the Flyers fans props. They were not anywhere near as brutal as they have been in the past. Being first in the Conference probably helps.

vermont: What makes you think John Stevens is a potential answer. He was fired for being unable to get the Flyers are track just last season.

Posted by: fanohock1 | January 19, 2011 6:23 PM | Report abuse

@vermontcaps

You need to get it into your head that BB is not going to be fired anytime soon and why are some people so worked up on DJK?! I just don't get it. He's not the answer to the Caps problem.

Posted by: RITdude | January 19, 2011 6:30 PM | Report abuse

I like hearing this kind of talk from the captain.

Posted by: Dizruption | January 19, 2011 6:35 PM | Report abuse

There are certain coaches who recognize how tough it is to play the type of role DJ is asked to play. And they do reward them whenever possible. Be it at the end of a game on a PP (if they're comfortably ahead).
----------

While I'm still on the fence about DJK - not as a guy, he seems like a terrific teammate, just whether he can actually play - this illustrates the point perfectly. I can't think of another team I've watched, where certain guys played 99% of every PP for the entire two minutes, and other guys never sniffed it. He!!, I used to want to pop Bob Hartley because Forsberg, Sakic and Duke sometimes played 30 secs before he pulled 'em and went with the 2nd unit [and after that, the 3rd]. I don't even remember Leetchie and Zubov playing the entire two when the Strangers won the Cup - and those boys could play some point on the PP, whatever else you may think of 'em. But other guys always got a shot at it, at some point in the game - even if it was for the last 20 seconds, and especially in lopsided games.

I understand BB's a loyal guy, and I respect and admire him for that. And it's undeniable what he's done for i.e., Green's career. But loyalty also has limits, at some point, no?

Posted by: Timbo_1 | January 19, 2011 6:35 PM | Report abuse

i knew someone would say that about Stevens :)

In defense of Vermont, I'll say that I too have no problem with that move. I don't know what went wrong with Stevens in Philly. I can speculate and say that maybe he wasn't quite ready for the nhl yet.
But he did pretty well considering..and I think he'll get another NHL opportunity in the next couple of yrs.

But his coaching system..I like. He also espouses a lot of the intangible qualities our team is missing.

How do we know that he's not a guy who is like Hanlon in that he can get his team to play hard but without utilizing much creativity via his skill guys?

that's the million dollar question. I watched his teams in the AHL and they competed their butts off and were nasty to play against. And I thought his adjustments in the series against us were very good. All that being said, I'm not a huge John Stevens fan, but I am a fan and if we hired him we wouldn't be sitting here talking about a lack of toughness anymore. Unless McPhee's still here.

Stevens does believe in the concept of being a difficult team to play against.

Im not worried that he got fired. A lot of good coaches get fired. And rehired.

Posted by: cstanton1 | January 19, 2011 6:37 PM | Report abuse

I'm not worried about Ovie. Every goal-scorer I've ever known is streaky - and it'd be just fine with me if he happened to get hot late this spring ;-)

But more important is how he's played the last 4-5 game IMHO. That dude can win him some loose puck battles!

Posted by: Timbo_1 | January 19, 2011 6:39 PM | Report abuse

I'm not worried about Ovie. Every goal-scorer I've ever known is streaky - and it'd be just fine with me if he happened to get hot late this spring ;-)

But more important is how he's played the last 4-5 game IMHO. That dude can win him some loose puck battles!

Posted by: Timbo_1 | January 19, 2011 6:39 PM | Report abuse

Ovi CAN win those battles, but from my observation he's not working too hard at it, I think because he's hurt. This is not a knock on the guy -- I honestly think he's playing lame -- but it just seems like in the last week or two he'll take a stab at the puck and then skate on. He's not fighting for it in the least like J. Beagle or M. Knuble are likely to do.

Posted by: Justafan | January 19, 2011 6:48 PM | Report abuse

I'm not worried about Ovie. Every goal-scorer I've ever known is streaky - and it'd be just fine with me if he happened to get hot late this spring ;-)
-------------------------

Depends on where you had Ovi in the pantheon of goal scorers. In his first 5 years, he was being compared to the Gretzkys, the Lemieuxs and the Bossys of the world.

And I don't remember any of those guys EVER having a season-long slump such as the one Ovi's been in this season.

Posted by: joek443 | January 19, 2011 6:56 PM | Report abuse

ovy's committment to physicality is very low compared to yrs past.

As a fan, I'm very disappointed because he's not as fun to watch anymore. And hasn't been for a while.

Posted by: cstanton1 | January 19, 2011 6:57 PM | Report abuse

Why would you want Stevens? He got fired in Philly because he was unable to keep the team on track. Allowed them to do whatever they wanted off the ice. Was a 'defensive' coach who didn't exploit the offensive talents of his players. Every season he was head coach, the team went on 10+ game winless streaks! Why would you want him?? He was the worst coach the Flyers had in a LONG time. Besides, he's an Asst. out in LA now.

Posted by: rdy4all2000 | January 19, 2011 7:16 PM | Report abuse

I would not be averse to Stevens simply because I know at the very least he coaches a tough style of hockey.

Anything else, I can't speak to. But after watching the current version of the Caps for the last few yrs, I'll take my chances for now with a guy like Stevens who will at least get some better team toughness going on the ice. And if he didn't work out and is unable to utilize his skill players correctly, then move on. Its not the end of the world to see what he can do with this team. You can always cut ties. Its not like Bruce is the answer either.

Posted by: cstanton1 | January 19, 2011 7:23 PM | Report abuse

Stevens? Play DJK? Do any of you guys preaching to see more DJK look at the stat sheets or have you seen Stevens record? If he was so great, don't you think NJ would have hired him? Or any other bottom feeder for that matter. You want to fire the winningest NHL coach of the last 3 years just because the Caps aren' 1st in the Eastern Conference?

Look, this team wasn't going to win a Cup the way they were constructed and played the last few years. The league figured them out. They are adjusting. it takes time. The goals will come. Dead weight will get trimmed, trades for veterans will happen this year. Without a doubt (Arnott and Umberger are my picks).

Enough with this "play DJ King!" ridiculousness. The guy is an enforcer. The team needs a center that can score and a right wing that can score and provide leadership. Not an enforcer that can't score or hasn't won a cup. To keep pushing for this guy shows your hockey ignorance and demonstrates that you don't understand the game at all.

Go watch college basketball and leave us real hockey fans alone.

Posted by: jmurray019 | January 19, 2011 8:01 PM | Report abuse

Stevens? Play DJK? Do any of you guys preaching to see more DJK look at the stat sheets or have you seen Stevens record? If he was so great, don't you think NJ would have hired him? Or any other bottom feeder for that matter. You want to fire the winningest NHL coach of the last 3 years just because the Caps aren' 1st in the Eastern Conference?

Look, this team wasn't going to win a Cup the way they were constructed and played the last few years. The league figured them out. They are adjusting. it takes time. The goals will come. Dead weight will get trimmed, trades for veterans will happen this year. Without a doubt (Arnott and Umberger are my picks).

Enough with this "play DJ King!" ridiculousness. The guy is an enforcer. The team needs a center that can score and a right wing that can score and provide leadership. Not an enforcer that can't score or hasn't won a cup. To keep pushing for this guy shows your hockey ignorance and demonstrates that you don't understand the game at all.

Go watch college basketball and leave us real hockey fans alone.

Posted by: jmurray019 |

I actually agree with everything you said. I hope you are right, even at the expense of an asset like Eakin.

Posted by: underpants2 | January 19, 2011 10:39 PM | Report abuse

@jmurray, You have to be more specific. BB is the winningist REGUALR SEASON coach of the past three years.

You're forgetting aobut is sub .500 playoff record.

As the Caps proved last year, winning the regular season means nothing if you can't do anything in the spring when it counts.

BTW, there are a lot more college basketball teams that are trying harder then the Caps have been lately. Doesn't mean I like watching college basketball, just sayin.

It's the lack of effort from the team and BB's inability to get things turned around that's leading to all this fire BB talk.

Posted by: jwash4472 | January 20, 2011 8:01 AM | Report abuse

"ovy's committment to physicality is very low compared to yrs past.

As a fan, I'm very disappointed because he's not as fun to watch anymore. And hasn't been for a while."

Thats funny. Around this time last year after being suspended for a hit that came not from being dirty but just playing too hard, everyone from the press to the fans was calling for him to change his game and tone it down.

If he doesnt look like "himself" this year it is because he is actually foolishly took that advice.

Posted by: johnqpublic1 | January 20, 2011 8:35 AM | Report abuse

Alex Ovechkin: 'You have to go there and fight for that puck'

-------------
Thank you captain obvious!!!! Did you JUST realize that??

Posted by: rachel216 | January 20, 2011 9:03 AM | Report abuse

Ovie's 2010 Stats...
First 61 games = 1.57377 pts per game
IN game 61 he hit Campbell and was suspended for the 2nd time last season.

Remaining 11 games after suspension = 1.1818 pts per game

Thru 47 games this season he averages .9787 pts per game.

So in the 58 games since that Chicago game he is averaging .983 pts per game.

I want my dynamic, aggressive Ovie back. Suspensions and all. Can he dial it up for the playoffs? He had 10 points in the Montreal series last year. He had very few pts in the final 3 games.

Posted by: jimc93 | January 20, 2011 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Caps are all talk.

Posted by: Hatfield223 | January 20, 2011 12:29 PM | Report abuse

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